Time for your workplace well-being to get a health check

| January 14, 2021

Corporate wellness and workplace well-being are having a moment in the sun – even though some say they are simply making another comeback.

Powered by a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on our physical, emotional and mental health, COVID-19 has pushed many of us to take up the challenge of pivoting to a new normal when it comes to thinking about our well-being.

Burnout, overwork, job insecurity and stress have hurt our mental health. Not surprisingly, many of us feel unhappy, anxious, depressed or “out of sorts”.

Lockdowns and a lack of connectedness to our family, friends and colleagues have left some of us feeling emotionally deprived and maybe even vulnerable.

And a lack of sleep, little exercise, a poor diet and possibly too much alcohol have prompted many to feel overweight, unfit, lethargic or simply unwell.

We have been quick to blame the pandemic for creating more twists and turns to our well-being than a cheap garden hose.

Yet if we are honest, at least some of us would admit to neglecting our well-being well before COVID-19 struck.

Many now acknowledge that it has taken a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic to force us to take our well-being more seriously.

This includes being healthy at work – a place where we spend a third or more of our time each day.

The thought of having an employee base with optimal health has most bosses salivating. Bosses know that healthier workers are absent less often, more engaged, motivated and energetic, and nearly always more productive.

But taking care of our well-being at work is often easier said than done – and usually not done well, unless you are able to put in place a simple well-being plan that suits your personal preferences and work context.

If you work in a large organisation, your journey to a better workplace well-being might start with accessing a corporate wellness program. These programs cultivate healthy habits and might include access to regular physical health check-ups, initiatives to achieve fitness goals and access to counselling services.

Not having access to these programs does not have to be a deal breaker for those committed to improving their well-being, with a few simple yet important steps within everyone’s reach.

Recognise the importance of staying hydrated and having hydration breaks at intervals throughout the working day. This alone will might well boost energy levels. Alternatively, replace that second (or third or fourth) cup of coffee with a less dehydrating alternative.

Bring healthy snacks to work to resist the temptation of consuming sugary or salty taste pleasers. Others recognise that bringing in lunch – at least on some days – might take them one step closer to better physical health.

Throughout the working day, move as much as you can and stand rather than sit when an occasion presents. Some will even attempt a “workout at work” by having meetings on the move (think: walking meetings) and others use the stairs rather than the lift.

But diet and exercise will achieve little if you deprive yourself of sleep because you regularly stay up too late to complete work assignments or meet tight deadlines.

Experts point out that a lack of sleep will not only impact your physical health but affect your emotional and mental well-being (think: burnout).

Practising smart computer habits by taking regular breaks away from a screen, having a quick power nap if the boss is amendable, aiming for good posture while seated, and spending a little time each day outside to get a small dose of Vitamin D (think: sunlight) are all important tactics.

Emotional health can be bolstered by real engagement with colleagues, practising positive self-talk, having career goals and through discovering something you enjoy outside of the office so that your downtime does not simply become more screen time.

Those concerned with their mental health recognise that you do not need to be diagnosed with a condition to take an interest in your mental health.

You can improve your mental health by finding a positive outlet for stress such as mediation, avoiding the temptation to overthink every action that takes places in a workplace, developing the capacity to say “no” and undertaking some resilience training.

None of these simple tips for better workplace health require a major overhaul of your working life – they are simple actions that can be incorporated into your day-to-day routine.

So why do our attempts at enhanced personal workplace well-being so often fail?

A common cause is that we overthink and overcomplicate matters and make our proposed actions too hard and too challenging to implement.

So, make the road to a better personal well-being at work simple and straightforward and avoid at all costs becoming a creator of complexity.